Ski seen: Wintergreener has sights on Olympics
Skiing, especially with the near-70s temperatures earlier this week, may not top the list of Virginia sports. But Lesley Lesmasurier just might change that– if she stays in one piece.
"It's a high risk sport, I guess," she smiles after finishing her physical therapy session.
No kidding. Her most recent bout of overexertion makes three major leg injuries in as many years. For a competitive skiier poised to win national and international accolades, that's a difficult obstacle to overcome. That she's laughing about it could be a good sign.
"When I qualified for the national ski team my senior year in high school, I made history," she says. "I was the first person to qualify for the U.S. Ski Team from the state of Virginia."
Lesmasurier is on the development team, a group of five promising skiers believed to be the future of American competitive skiing.
It takes sacrifice to develop that degree of skill by the age of 19, and Lesmasurier began paying her dues when she was barely out of kindergarten. She began skiing as a six-year-old, and by the time she was eight, her family was enthusiastic enough to relocate to Wintergreen in order to train Lesley and her older sister Jane, also an accomplished skier.
At Wintergreen Lesley helped start a six-member racing team that has since mushroomed into a huge institution with nearly 100 participants. In ninth grade, she left for Vermont for an intense training regimen at the famed Burke Mountain Academy.
Former Burke coach John Hale, now working for the U.S. Olympic Committee, trained Lesmasurier during her sophomore and junior years, cultivating the seeds of athletic prowess that are sprouting today.
"Being from Virginia, I think that it was definitely intimidating, skiing and racing at a national level," he says.
However, starting in Virginia may have worked in her favor. "With the northern kids," she explains, "it's so intense that most of them end up burning out by the time they're 15 or 16."
Lesmasurier ended up getting serious and leaving for Burke Mountain at an age when many of her would-be rivals were throwing in the towel. "Without Wintergreen, I wouldn't be where I am right now," she says, "It was a great place to learn and to grow up."
Now, having been identified as a potential champion, she's gearing up for a two-planked Continental rampage. She leaves later this month to attend the European Cups, a string of races that could lead to international competition and perhaps eventually even to the Olympics.
"She's pretty intense," says teammate Katie Hitchcock, "You kind of have to be like, 'Lesley, settle down.' She puts on her iPod and listens to it by herself in the corner. It's pretty funny."
With so much on the line, she probably has "Eye of the Tiger" on infinite repeat.
PHOTOS BY JEN FARIELLO